Big Anti-Abortion Squabble Dogs Campaign in Ohio

AP News: Anti-abortion groups are at odds on strategies ahead of Ohio vote. It could be a preview for 2024

Protect? Women? Ohio? Anti-abortion logo.

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Abortion opponents in Ohio are at odds not only over how to frame their opposition to a reproductive rights initiative on the states November ballot but also over their longerterm goals on how severely they would restrict the procedure.

The disagreements, roiling the antiabortion side just six weeks before Election Day, are providing a window into the challenges the wider movement is preparing to navigate next year. Initiatives to protect reproductive rights are expected in multiple states and abortion will be a central issue in candidate races up and down the ballot.

Scattershot campaign messaging in Ohio hints at some of the internal conflict among members of the broad antiabortion coalition aligned against the constitutional amendment that seeks to protect abortion access in Ohio.

Early ads played on voters fears by warning that the amendment, known as Issue 1, would be a gateway to teenagers getting abortions and gendertransition surgeries without their parents’ consent. Other efforts focused on advancing legal arguments about the amendments specific phrasing, including the meaning of “reproductive health care.

In its first statewide TV ad, which began airing this past week, the opposition campaign Protect Women Ohio went in yet another direction. It combined clips of former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden on screen to try to unite Republicans and Democrats against the proposals ability to protect abortions into the ninth month of pregnancy, even though health statistics show laterterm abortions are a rarity, generally reserved for lifethreatening circumstances.

Terry Casey, an Ohio Republican consultant, said the opposition campaigns reliance on two unpopular politicians in the ad only extends a disjointed approach that ultimately will be unlikely to win the day with voters.

“The key thing I’m looking at is, ‘What’s the message on the no side, and is it clear and understandable?’he said. So far, I haven’t seen that, nor that they have the money and resources to define the issue to the 11.5 million people of Ohio.”

Casey said Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights, the coalition advocating a “yes” vote, seems to have developed a consistent message — freedom from government interference in ones personal reproductive health decisions — and stuck with it. Thats easier to do when youre on a winning streak, he said.

Image from ad from Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling last year that overturned Roe v. Wade kicked the abortion question back to the states. Since then, voters in both Democratic and deeply Republican states — California, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana and Vermont — have voted to protect abortion rights in one form or another. Abortion rights questions are planned in more than half a dozen states next year.

David Zanotti, president and CEO of the conservative American Policy Roundtable, said “its crystal clear” that the abortion rights movement was ready for the high courts ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Womens Health Organization and that the antiabortion community was not.”

“For 50 years, we didn’t have to think about this because the big people in the black robes said it’s not your business,” he said. “Now suddenly, it’s our business.”

Republicans across the country are divided over how to move forward on the issue, particularly because the string of defeats is backed up by public polling that suggests about twothirds of people in the United States believe abortion should generally be legal. Do Republicans capitalize on the Dobbs decision to push for an “abortionless future,” concede to a patchwork of individual state laws or compromise on federal legislation?

Protect Women Ohio is funded largely by the campaign arm of Susan B. Anthony ProLife America, a leading national antiabortion group. Last spring, the organization enlisted Kellyanne Conway, a pollster and onetime Trump adviser, “to get prolife candidates on offense in the 2024 election cycle.”

Conway and Marjorie Dannenfelser, Susan B. Anthony’s president, defined what they mean by “prolife” when they wrote in a Washington Post oped that the antiabortion movement should embrace a minimum standard of banning abortion after the 15th week of pregnancy.

The column appeared after Ohio Republicans’ defeat in an August special election, when the states voters resoundingly rejected a proposed amendment that would have made it tougher to pass the abortion measure and other future constitutional changes.

The American Policy Roundtable doesnt support federal action, after conservatives spent half a century fighting to bring decisionmaking power on abortion back to the state level. Zanotti said it has chosen to run its own campaign against the Ohio amendment focused on its phrasing and legal reach.

A poster issued by the Catholic Conference of Ohio

Another major player in the antiabortion movement, the Catholic Conference of Ohio, is part of the statewide coalition but is also running its own parallel effort opposing the amendment. Executive Director Brian Hickey said that campaign focuses on three points: parental rights, the safety of women and the fact the amendment would allow abortions through all nine months.

“I would place the Catholic Conference as supporting as much human life as possible and as expansive resources as possible to pregnant women, single mothers and young families,” he said. “That includes tax credits, affordable housing, social support, that sort of thing.”

Austin Beigel, president of End Abortion Ohio, does not consider the 15week policy that Susan B. Anthony is supporting as “prolife.” He said he has begun referring to himself as an “abortion abolitionist” because he believes the term “prolife” has become meaningless.

“I don’t use that phrase anymore, because it seems the prolife movement no longer wants to accomplish the goal of abolishing abortion,” he said. “Somewhere along the line, the various groups began to abandon the idea.”

To groups like his, one date stands out — May 12, 2022. Just days after a draft leaked suggesting the Supreme Court would overturn Roe, but before the court had acted, Louisiana was poised to pass a bill defining abortion as homicide, exposing women to criminal prosecution and prison. More than 75 antiabortion groups, led by National Right to Life, signed an open letter condemning the legislation.

The president of Ohio Right to Life was among those signing the letter, which Beigels group criticized. The divide between the states antiabortion camps widened earlier this year over an effort to introduce a similar bill in Ohio, which would have banned abortions from conception and criminalized the doctors and women involved in them.

That bill was nearing introduction this summer when another antiabortion activist active in the Protect Women Ohio campaign pressured the sponsor to spike it, Beigel said. Their concern was that publicity over the bill would generate backlash and make it harder to defeat the abortion rights amendment, which had just qualified for the fall ballot.

Ohios top Republican, Gov. Mike DeWine, is offering yet another message to voters in an effort to bolster the opposition to the constitutional amendment. A staunch Catholic who opposes abortion, DeWine is pledging that if voters defeat Issue 1, he will work toward a legislative compromise that “the majority of the people are comfortable with.”

Logo for Pro-Choice Ohio

To supporters of abortion rights, the divisions that the Ohio amendment have exposed in the antiabortion movement are merely “cosmetic,” said NARAL ProChoice Ohio Executive Director Kellie Copeland.

She pointed to legislation passed by the Republicancontrolled Legislature to ban abortions once fetal cardiac activity is detected, usually around six weeks. With a Republican majority state supreme court, Copeland said she has no doubts about what Republicans will do if Issue 1 is defeated.

“No matter who’s taking the lead, or what they’re saying, their goal has been and remains a total ban on abortion with no exceptions,” she said. “What they’re arguing about is strategy, tactics for holding onto voters who are not on their side.”

2 thoughts on “Big Anti-Abortion Squabble Dogs Campaign in Ohio”

  1. Doesn’t anyone notice the absurdity of legislating human physiology? Where is the outcry against defying the manifest will of our creator from that direction?

  2. If it were not abortion, it would be … pick your divisive issue.

    The folks behind the folks passionately against abortion are users — of people and of political issues that divide the electorate. Division is their real goal.

    Why? Because a united public has been shown to want the same things from government — like making sure that everyone is healthy, can eat, has a roof over their head, etc. And doing all that for everyone takes money that is only available from those with the most. Those with the most are the money behind the faux-institutes that generate and propagate the “trickle-down” myth (that fateful napkin if one remembers the time).

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